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Movie Review: The Notebook

Alternate Title: Southern Comfort

Story: By all rights, this often told, absurdly predictable sapfest of a film should have made me gag. But director Nick Cassavetes somehow made it work on many levels. It is a visually beautiful film with a very talented cast. It is based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks (Message in a Bottle).

It is the age old tale of a poor boy, a rich girl, parental disapproval and a forced break up. If that wasn't common enough for a theme we then get war, separation, deception, new love, old love, blah, blah, blah. On top of that we have a side story of an aging couple retelling the story through flashbacks. I would have been much happier had the story not had the flashbacks. I liked the South Carolina of the 1930s replete with sepia tones and corny sunsets. The back and forth of the timeline often stopped the film dead in its tracks.

This film can be an alternative to the summer's explosions and special effects bonanzas that have already hit your big screens. It is a good date movie and will surely end up on the Lifetime Network, Oh! Channel or on the Hallmark Hall of Fame in the very near future.

Acting: I really liked the two young leads. I cared about them and found them believable. Ryan Gosling (The Believer, The United States of Leland) as young Noah was strong, endearing and I will be interested to see him in other roles as he matures. Rachel McAdams (Mean Girls) as young Allie is animated, strong and believable. Joan Allen as the mother is always a joy to watch. Gena Rowlands (who still looks terrific and is the real life mother of director Nick Cassavetes) and James Garner as the older couple retelling the story have little screen time but I guarantee that they will make you cry a tear or two.

Predilection: None.

Critters: A billion ducks.

Food: Cotton candy, pancakes and some southern fried something or other.

Soundtrack: Cloyingly over the top.

Opening Titles: Simple type over a gorgeous sunrise.

Theater Audience: A preview audience half filled the theater. My movie pal and I had a few good laughs at some of the more silly things that happened.

Sappy Factor: Sap -pid- de- doo-dah!

Predictability Level: Eye rolling predictable from the first five minutes.

Tissue Usage: I admit to getting choked up. I think if you have a pulse you will be able to feel something for this love story.

Oscar Worthy: No.

Nit Picking: I hate narrators.

Big Screen or Rental: I don't care one way or another. But, if you like Joan Allen how about trying some of her films to rent: The Contender, Pleasantville, The Ice Storm, The Crucible, Nixon, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Ethan Frome, In Country, Tucker and Peggy Sue Got Married.

Length: Two hours.